SACRAMENTO - Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf region, Sacramento area levees remain vulnerable, say experts.
U.C. Davis geologist Jeffrey Mount has sounded the alarm for years about crumbling levees. "I think from a Katrina style disaster, right behind in Sacramento," he said.
Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a levee emergency in 2006. He vowed to pump $500 million into upgrading the state's 150-year old levee system.
Some 100 of the state's most critical sites have been improved. "The Folsom Dam is being upgraded, but the levee work really lags," said Congressman John Garamendi. "You and I and other voters authorized bonds to be sold, but those folks over there at the Capitol, they can't get their act together to raise enough money to pay for the bonds."
Federal assistance has also been widely unavailable. The Army Corps of Engineers is in Afghanistan. "You don't touch these waterways without the Corps," said Garamendi. "They're simply absent."
A levee failure could take many forms, from a simple levee breach to a major earthquake. "The worst case scenario is a major earthquake in the Delta during the summer months," said Mount. "What happens is you bring salt water in from the San Francisco Bay to fill the subsided islands. You shut offthe state water project. You shut off the Central Valley project."
This would cut the fresh water supply for 25 million Californians indefinitely. Neighborhoods like Sacramento's Natomas area could be under as much as 22 feet of water. West Sacramento homes could floo up to the second story. But, not everyone is that concerned.
"I feel they're repairing the levees. I feel secure." said Barbara Ingle who's lived in West Sacramento for 10 years.